A Low Cost Solution to Summer Reading Loss for Disadvantaged Students:
In this important Kappan article summarized in the Marshall Memo, Harvard Graduate School of Education professor James Kim and University of Virginia researcher Thomas White cite a study showing that more than half the gap in ninth-grade reading comprehension scores between low-income and middle-income students can be traced to differences in summer learning opportunities in the elementary grades (Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson 2007). But an earlier study (Cooper et al. 2000) showed that summer school is not the answer. In fact, this study showed that summer school actually increases the gap between middle-income and low-income students.
So what can we do as educators? A series of studies have shown that there is a low-cost way to close the gap: give disadvantaged students well-chosen books to read every summer and teach them and their parents how to make the best use of the books.
Here are the key ingredients:
- A good supply of books – 8-12 books per child seems to be the right range.
- Interesting books – Student choice is important here.
- “Just right” reading level – If students choose their own books, they sometimes pick books that end up being too difficult, so readability should be a factor in choice.
- Instructions to parents – They are asked to have their children read aloud to them and give feedback on fluency and expression, and to mail in postcards showing their children’s progress over the summer.
“Solving the Problem of Summer Reading Loss” by James Kim and Thomas White in Phi Delta Kappan, April 2011 (Vol. 92, #7, p. 64-67) http://www.kappanmagazine.org; note that there are 13 other articles on summer learning loss in the Marshall Memo archive.